Many studies have yielded valuable knowledge on the early visual system but it is biased since the studies have focused on terrestrial mammals alone. Here, to better account for visual systems in different environments and animal classes, we studied the structure of early visual processing in the archerfish which harnesses its extreme visual ability to hunt by shooting water jets at prey hanging on vegetation above the water. Thus, the archerfish provides a unique opportunity to study visual processing in a vertebrate which is an expert vision-guided predator with a very different brain structure than mammals. The receptive field structures in the archerfish (both sexes) optic tectum, the main visual processing region in the fish brain, were measured and linear non-linear cascades were used to analyze their properties. The findings indicate that the spatial receptive field structures lie on a continuum between circular and elliptical shapes. In addition, the cells' functional properties display a richness of response characteristics, since many cells could be captured by more than a single linear filter. Finally, the non-linear response functions that link linear filters and neuronal responses were found to be similar to the non-linear functions of models that describe terrestrial mammalian single cell activity. Overall our results help to better understand the early visual processing system across vertebrates.
Keywords: linear-nonlinear models; optic tectum; receptive field; spike-triggered covariance; white noise analysis.